A goal of many evaluations is to help programs or projects get an objective assessment of how things are going. Just like Punxsutawney Phil is tasked each year with coming out of his home to determine if his shadow is visible, project stakeholders must be open to periodically taking a step outside of their day-to-day activities to review how things are going–though admittedly (and thankfully) they have the advantage of evaluation data to reflect on, rather than having to rely on a large woodchuck.
Nobody wants Phil to see his shadow on Groundhog’s Day– we all want an early spring. Likewise, most project stakeholders are far more eager to get news about all the things that are going well, rather than seeing their proverbial shadow…i.e., the “not-so-great news” which might indicate a need to make some revisions or spend a little more time working through challenges that are impeding progress on their path toward success. I’d argue, however, that without these moments for stakeholders to reflect on how things are going, they are often cheating themselves out of an opportunity to be the best they can be or to do the best they can do. As evaluators, its our role to periodically invite our clients to step out to see if they can see their shadow…or perhaps discover that “warmer days” are near on the horizon.